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The Color of My Words Paperback – December 24, 2001
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What 12-year-old Ana Rosa Hèrnandez wants more than anything is a notepad of her very own. Writing is her passion, and words flow out of her pencil onto the paper bags that Papi brings his rum home in, onto napkins, onto gray shop paper. In the República Dominicana, however, only the President can write books. But as Mami sighs and says, "Ana Rosa, there always has to be a first person to do something." These supportive words are difficult for her mother to muster, as everyone on the island knows too well that writers do not have freedom of expression--and in their political climate "silence was self-defense."
When the chilling news arrives that the government wants to buy all the land in the village to build hotels and generate more tourism, people learn what it means to break their silence. Ana Rosa's handsome 19-year-old brother Guario Hèrnandez is appointed as official spokesperson for the villagers' cause, but when an out-and-out rebellion against the government erupts, he--and everyone else--is endangered. As the bulldozers roll in, Ana Rosa and her family discover how utterly worthless words really are in the face of brute force.
Lynn Joseph paints a vibrant, colorful landscape of this Caribbean island where love, warmth of community, and abundant natural beauty soften the kind of poverty that makes paper--and sometimes doing what you think is right--a luxury. Ana Rosa's engaging, heartfelt poems--"Merengue Dream," "My Brother's Friend"--begin every chapter, setting the tone of the events to follow, and reinforcing how words shape her life and how her life shapes her words. Young readers will be inspired by Ana Rosa's drive and talent, warmed by vivid stories of her close-knit family, and moved by those who fight for what's right at the greatest possible cost. This lovely, lyrical book dances the merengue, glimmers with sunshine, and sways with island breezes. (Ages 10 and older) --Karin Snelson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
In finely wrought chapters that at times read more like a collection of related short stories than a novel, Joseph (Jump Up Time) presents slices from the life of Ana Rosa just as she is about to turn 13. Through the heroine's poetry and recollections, readers gain a rare intimate view of life in the Dominican Republic. Ana Rosa dreams of becoming a writer even though no one but the president writes books; she learns to dance the merengue by listening to the rhythms of her beloved ocean; and the love of her older brother, Guario, comforts her through many difficulties. The author's portraits of Ana Rosa and her family are studies in spare language; the chapters often grow out of one central imageAsuch as the gri gri tree where Ana Rosa keeps watch over her village and gets ideas for her writingAgiving the novel the feel of an extended prose poem. The brevity of the chapters showcases Joseph's gift for metaphoric language (e.g., her description of Ana Rosa's first crush: "My dark eyes trailed him like a line of hot soot wherever he went"). When the easy rhythms of the girl's island life abruptly change due to two major events, the author develops these cataclysms so subtly that readers may not feel the impact as fully as other events, such as the heroine's unrequited love. Still, it's a testimony to the power of Joseph's writing that the developments readers will empathize with most are those of greatest importance to her winning heroine. Ages 8-12. (Aug.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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By Marlyse Ngouabe, sixth grade student at Alice Deal Junior High, Washington, D.C.
Have you ever had to leave your town and immigrate to an unknown land, just because the government wants to make financial gain by selling off your land to large companies? This is the struggle of the whole town of Sosua in the Dominican Republic, the tumultuous setting of the novel, The Colors of My Word by Lynn Joseph.
Narrated through the perspective of a young girl, Ana Rosa, the novel opens with a private conversation between Ana and her mother, in which Ana talks about what she wants to become when she grows up -- a writer. In this conversation, Ana’s mother warns her that being a writer is dangerous in the Dominican Republic because only the president is allowed to write. But Ana is determined to use her talent to help her family and to fight for what is right.
Ana writes poignant poems about how the Sosua community has never felt hopeless or powerless in the face of the government’s belittlement as it was removing citizens from their homes. The citizens decide to fight back. They throw bottles and set tires on fire. In the midst of these anti-government demonstrations, innocent lives are lost, including a family member very close to Ana. Using the power of her words, she shames the citizens of Sosua for their violent protests that resulted in untimely deaths.
After the violent outbreaks, Ana continuously blames herself for her family member’s death. She decides to punish herself by not writing a single word again. But in an emotional twist, on her birthday she receives a typewriter and is determined to tell her deceased family member’s story.
It becomes clear that the people living in Sousa have a choice to make: to stay or to immigrate and escape an oppressive government.
While this novel develops a reader’s understanding for why people migrant, it also offers insightful lessons any teen can relate to. In her struggle to find out who she is, Ana expresses how life does not always listen to the song you sing to it and it does not always sound the way you want it to sound, but when you have a goal and a passion, then no matter what happens in life, you will not lose it.